There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success. – George Matthew Adams
This week, I received two incredible gifts at work. This, to me, was surprising because I have gone extended periods on the job without receiving gifts such as these and, this week, incredibly, I received them on consecutive days.
My annual reviews for the past few years have been a sore spot for me. I have felt they missed the point, that my reviewers were blind to the talents I brought to the table, that the reviews were written for someone else and mistakenly given to me.
Last year, in particular, I was incensed at the review and wrote a very long rebuttal to the review committee and our Human Resources department, neither which ever contacted me to discuss my concerns. In short, I was marked down because of the perception that I did not coach and mentor the people reporting to me. I was incensed because spend a good part of my time coaching and mentoring the people that report to me and others that come to me for advice at my company. I view this as a private matter between me and an employee because, frequently, an employee needs mentoring in an area where they are struggling and this is not the business of anyone else in the company. There was no way anyone would know, short of talking to the people I coached, if I was mentoring so to mark me down for not coaching was to tell me they didn’t know enough or care enough about the work I did to accurately assess me. To make matters worse, I was told that I was on the bubble for being demoted to a lower ranking supervisor and I had one year to prove myself.
Fast forward one year. Have I changed my management style? No. While I continually seek feedback to improve myself, I have a deeply held belief that the way I manage people, a servant leader, is best for my direct reports and the company. And I felt last years review was so off base that it made no sense to change my style.
This year I was rated as a performer with potential which, in my company, is viewed as high praise. What was different this year? Only one thing changed and that was my Manager. My previous manager and I got along quite well and he typically gave me some great feedback to improving, however, I never felt he quite bought in to my management style. And I always felt that no matter what I did, I would never measure up in his eyes.
My new Manager believes in me. How do I know? He told me so this past Monday and that was gift number one. He told me that my biggest strength is how I work with my direct reports and that I am strong in the area of coaching and mentoring. I felt vindicated.These words of encouragement have given me a strong desire to surpass his expectations in the upcoming year. A little encouragement goes a long way to motivating others. Having someone who I feel believes in me and is seeking the best for me and my career is also highly motivating. And it makes me feel that I can grow much as an employee under his tutelage than I can from seeking other positions
I was relaying this to one of my workmates, told her how great I felt having a boss that understands me and believes in me. And she said, “I completely understand”. I looked at her quizzically. She smiled and said that she understands because she also has a boss that believes in her and makes her feel motivated to excel. It took me a second to comprehend what she was saying and to connect the dots. You see, I am her boss. She was giving me a great compliment and this was my gift #2. One of the people reporting to me was validating that my management style is effective.I have this ongoing angst that I am supposed to be making a difference in the world and that I am falling short of my calling as a leader of people. This week, for a moment, that angst was relieved. I had received confirmation from both a boss and a direct report, that I am on the right path, that what I do makes a difference in the lives of people. All I could think after these two conversations is that they both had given me incredible gifts.